ANALYSIS: The generation game
The March launch of EWeek UK adds another player to the swiftly growing number of online lead generation services. The online publisher of B2B technology joins the ranks of content syndication sites with the likes of IDG Connect, CBS Interactive, ITMedia, emedia and Knowledge Storm, to name but a few, and promises solid ROI in a climate where marketers are desperate for measurability.
The site, which offers free editorial content, is targeted at IT professionals with purchasing influence. Vendors are able to post whitepapers for download, which appear as links when a visitor searches the site for the specific topic. They are free to download, but visitors must enter their information in order to gain access. These highly relevant leads are then delivered to the vendor.
"If someone is enquiring about a topic we know they're interested, and are able to match our editorial topic with the interests of the vendor," says Dominique Busso, founder and CEO of NetMediaEurope, the company behind the publication (which also publishes well-renowned online publication Silicon). "They're solid, concrete, hot leads," he claims.
The company also hosts live, interactive webcasts - at a cost to the brand of around £25,000 - as a means to foster leads.
EWeek devises the topic, sources speakers and analysts and organises all the logistics and technologies, explains Busso. As with promotion of the whitepapers, the webcasts are advertised on the editorial site when a visitor searches on topic, as well as through EWeek's databases and sometimes the vendor's own databases. "It's a funnel approach," says Busso, "editorial content is used to drive readers to the site, which in turn directs them to the webcast." Viewers are enticed with informative, topical content and live interactivity with the ability to pose questions to the roundtable and contribute to a poll. Again, the webcasts are free to view, but viewers must register to attend. Qualified leads are passed back to the vendor, and EWeek guarantees a minimum of 100 attendees.
Lead-generation site Conjungo, launched in January 2009, has a slightly different offering; providing a âgo understand' function to explain different types of technology and the business implications to visitors. Founder and CEO Dave Cruse explains that this is a seamless process - once a viewer understands a technology and decides they want to implement it into their business, they are able to search Conjungo's database of suppliers according to strict criteria in order to find a vendor tailored to their needs. Conjungo can be used as a âshop window' for vendors, says Cruse.
The format of content on lead gen sites can vary from publisher to publisher. EWeek offers everything from webcasts to podcasts, seminars (pre-recorded content, non-interactive) in addition to its whitepaper library. Other sites often include the option to post independent research, case studies, bespoke questionnaires and even ebooks - one of the hotter lead generation trends, according to Barlow.
Services such as Emedia offer syndicated, advertiser-funded ebulletins, where recipients opt-in to receive relevant information. This can be a great opportunity to leverage as prospects are voluntary and open to learning about your product to keep up-to-date with technologies, points out Kim Barlow, head of data planning at TW Data Consulting, which utilises lead generation for brands like HP, Samsung and Adobe.
The major benefit of sites like EWeek is that brands can take advantage of the loyal readership these publications have already established, and leverage the trust they have in the content of the site, says Steven Elliot, managing director at tech marketing agency Banner Corporation, which often advises clients - including Symantec, Novell and Avaya - to take the lead generation approach.
Jenny Bracken, marketing manager at the Business Application Software Developers Association (BASDA) agrees, adding "It's important how well promoted the site is to the people you're trying to target." She stresses the importance of things like SEO, and advises doing a Google search on your product to see how the lead generation sites rank. "To get the best results you must use a site that is going to reach your target audience," she recommends. Barlow suggests that the inverse is equally as important. "If you're going to post a white paper, make sure it's relevant and interesting," he says. "You need to give people relevant content; [this tool] doesn't work without it."
Barlow suggests that lead generation can be more cost effective than other lead generation alternatives, for example buying email data. People researching topics or voluntarily opting in to ebulletins do so because they want to keep up-to-date, rather than forcing content on a prospect that can easily unsubscribe. "In theory, the leads generated should be further along the buying cycle if they've shown interest in your topic (by searching for it in whitepaper libraries)," observes Elliot.
Pricing for such services has recently switched from cost-per-click to cost-per-lead. This is largely due to changes in the US, notes Chris Bagnall, MD EMEA of DWA, observing that they are the trendsetters in this field. This is advantageous, he observes, as where previously a marketer could not be certain on the number of leads they would get for their payment, now the guaranteed cost-per-lead model gives them more certainty. "It's utterly predictable and you have a good idea of what you're getting for your money," agrees Elliot.
The value of the lead will vary depending on the stipulations and filters you apply for a relevant lead. For leads without qualifications you could pay as little as £15 - £50, but for a more bespoke lead you could look at anything up to £200-£300.
Do be clear what you're paying for, Elliot heeds. The term âlead' can be misleading (no pun intended!) so clarify what you expect from your supplier and adjust prices accordingly. Leads can vary from a mere contact name potentially 18 months away from buying, to a qualified lead hot to purchase the next day. Another lead quality issue to consider is the fact that leads are not always exclusive; some vendors will sell one lead to multiple clients.
The regularity your supplier provides you with leads is something else to take into consideration. "You can sometimes get a trickle rather than an avalanche," says Elliot, which may be a problem if you have an immediate need for a lot of leads. It's not necessarily a bad thing though, he adds - the slower feed will allow time to qualify the leads and deal with them properly, especially as they have the tendency to get stale quickly. Make sure that you have the back-end process in place before purchasing leads, Elliot stresses.
Future of lead generation
One way to take this is a step further, is to use these tools for lead nurturing, suggests Bagnall. Not all leads are going to be in the final stages of the buying cycle, and many might require repeat purchases further down the line, depending on the product.
In a time where measurability is everything, marketers will continue to turn to technologies like these in order to prove their accountability.
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